From world wars to gun control, North Texas students have long debated issues of their day. Organized campus debate can trace its roots as far back as 1901 when the Kendall-Bruce Literary Society and the McKinley Literary Society, predecessors of modern debate teams, were formed.
According to research by Professor Emeritus James Rogers in The Story of North Texas, the two factions actually resulted from a debate over the proposed constitution for the one society they had intended to organize.
After the McKinley group dissolved in 1902, a few of the remaining members formed the John H. Reagan Literary Society. In 1906, the Kendall-Bruce Literary Society became the Robert E. Lee Literary Society. Within and between these groups, young minds debated important social questions. Organized labor was the topic of one of the first debates between the Kendall-Bruce and Reagan societies in 1902.
For the purpose of promoting the cause of oratory and debate, the members of the two groups organized the Oratorical Association of the North Texas State Normal in 1904. An early off-campus opponent was Decatur Baptist College in spring 1905, when the teams debated whether cities of more than 2,000 should own and operate their water, light and street railway systems.
By 1912, intercollegiate debating had gained enough popularity that the Texas Normal Debating League was formed among North Texas and other state normal schools, and at the close of a successful debating season in 1926-27, the Texas Eta chapter of Pi Kappa Delta, a national honorary forensic fraternity, was installed at North Texas. This marked the end of the traditional intersociety debate between the Lee and Reagan societies and opened a new chapter for organized debate.
Success has continued for North Texas debaters over the years. Last year the UNT team placed second at the Cross-Examination Debate Association's National Tournament.
"We have had a strong history of debate for many generations here at UNT," says Brian Lain, director of debate since August 2002. "The program overall has gone from a regional program in the campus's beginning to a national-level competitor."